Netawatwees -- also called "Newcomer" by Anglo-Americans -- was born around 1686. He eventually became the leader of the turtle clan of the Lenape (Delaware) in the Ohio Country. The Lenape consisted of three separate clans: the turtle clan, the turkey clan, and the wolf clan. Many Lenape believed that the turtle clan was the most important. Of the three animals that represented the different clans, only the turtle could survive on both land and in water. The turtle represented the entire earth. As chief of the turtle clan, Newcomer was the most powerful and influential member of the Lenape nation. He became chief of the turtle clan circa 1757. In 1759, Netawatwees established Gekelmukpechunk. Known as Newcomerstown to white settlers, this village was located east of modern-day Coshocton, Ohio, and became an important Lenape village in the Ohio Country.
Both during and following the French and Indian War, Netawatwees tried to form alliances with the British. The British favored such alliances during the war and afterwards to improve their involvement in the fur trade. But they failed to come to the Lenapes' aid in 1762, when a smallpox epidemic struck the Ohio Country. Netawatwees and his followers began to turn away from the British. Newcomer became a follower of Neolin, a American Indian prophet who encouraged American Indians in the Ohio Country and regions west to forsake white customs and European goods. Neolin's ideas also influenced Pontiac, who led a rebellion against the British beginning in 1763. Newcomer supported Pontiac's actions.
During the early 1770s, Netawatwees welcomed the arrival of missionaries, including David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder. The Moravian Church sent these men to convert the Ohio Lenape to Christianity. The missionaries established several missions in the Ohio Country, including Gnadenhutten, Lichtenau, and Schoenbrunn. Netawatwees hoped that the missionaries would help the Lenape (Delaware) overcome an epidemic that was passing through the population. The disease eventually ran its course. The Moravians remained in the Ohio Country actively seeking converts. The missionaries asked that the Lenape leave behind all of their traditional customs and ways of life. Many Lenape did adopt Christianity, but others refused to do so, and resented the Moravian missionaries' active assimilationist aims. The Lenape became a divided people during the 1770s. This was even true for Netawatwees's family. His own grandson, Killbuck, resented his grandfather for allowing the Moravians to remain in the Ohio Country. The Moravians believed in pacifism, and Netawatwees's grandson, Killbuck believed that every convert to the Moravians deprived the Lenape of a warrior who could aid in halting further Anglo-American settlement of Lenape land. While Netawatwees welcomed the missionaries, he never converted to Christianity. The Lenape remained divided even after Netawatwees's death in October 1776.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.